Philippians - Lesson 12
By Curt Niccum
- The class will equate assisting missionaries with the "mind of Christ.”
- The class will recount and reflect on the generosity of the congregation.
- The class can explain 4:13 in context.
- Bibles for every student.
- If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.
- Should the teacher choose to use a case study for the next class session, copies of the case study should be distributed to each student. (See Lesson Thirteen.)
God strengthens us to do the right things, even if painful.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5 minutes)
- Read Philippians 4:10-13
- Sing up to two songs. (The following are suggested tunes.)
- Take My Life
- None of Self and All of Thee
- Renew in Me a Clean Heart, O God
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For strength to do the unpleasant
- For single-minded devotion to God and his creation
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
- Remind the class that 4:9 basically ends Paul's letter. The Philippians certainly expected more from Paul in terms of thanks for the generous gift they sent him. Paul instead relegates the thanks for their financial support to the post script (P.S.) of the letter. Having written first about the love he wishes for them to have in greater measure (1:9), he only now returns to their "partnership in the gospel” (1:5).
- Q: How might that have made the Philippian church feel? A: Probably from a little uncomfortable to even quite upset. When the Christians first heard that a letter from Paul had arrived, they probably expected to hear high praise rather than an exhortation to a more Christ-like spirit in their own congregation.
- Clearly Paul intends for this last section of the letter to be understood in a particular way. It is that which we study today.
Learning Experiences (20 minutes)
- [Please note that both Lessons Twelve and Thirteen need to be combined if the teacher wishes to use a case study for the last class meeting. See Lesson Thirteen.]
- Paul ties the "appendix” (verses 10-23) to the rest of the letter by using the words "think” and "rejoice,” two themes found throughout the epistle related to "the mind of Christ.” Read 4:10. (The connection may not be as clear in some English translations. An overly literal translation of the verse would be, "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord because you have thought about me again. Indeed you had been thinking about me, but lacked an opportunity to show it.”) Here Paul associates missionary support with thinking like Christ.
- Q: If "thinking like Christ” means freely giving up one's own rights and privileges for the benefit of another, then how does the support the Philippians sent to Paul qualify? What have they given up willingly? A: The church has sacrificed their welfare and perhaps even their own ministries in order to help Paul in his rather difficult situation. (Note that Paul says these churches gave out of their "deep poverty,” 2 Cor. 8:1-2.)
- Q: What was Paul's benefit? Have the class read verses 11-12 carefully. A: Nothing. (It may perhaps be easier to start with the following question: What, surprisingly, does Paul not mention as of special benefit? A: The actual money.)
- Go back to verse 10. Q: Paul actually does find something of benefit. What is it? A: The Philippians were "thinking” like Christ towards him.
- Note that even when Paul benefits, his benefit is found in the good that results for others. People are always more important than things. He didn't need the Philippians' money. He needed them to give - to imitate Christ.
- Paul does not look to his needs, but the needs of others (2:4). He can share the gospel in any circumstances, because he focuses on God and others, not on himself.
- This brings up an important point. Christians often look to verse 13 for motivation to achieve great things. It is a favorite passage for our youth who assume that God is behind their greatest aspirations. Q: What specifically does Paul mean he can do through the one who strengthens him? A: God enables him to do all things that humans normally would not do (i.e., live in poverty, hunger, and want). It is not a passage encouraging us to "be all that we can be.” Instead it challenges us to give up all that we are, to empty ourselves as Christ did. (See also 3:7-8.)
- The value of the gift was not in the meeting of Paul's material needs but in the church's participation in Paul's sufferings (4:14)! This gift and previous gifts received by Paul supply him with hope. The Philippians are a giving, caring, generous congregation.
- Paul uses their contribution as one last example of how to live the cross of Christ. If they can sacrifice self for the sake of a prisoner hundreds of miles away, what prevents them from exercising that same "mind” or attitude toward those sitting next to them in worship on Sunday mornings? (Note that this letter would have been read to the church when gathered on a Sunday.)
Application (15 minutes)
- Q: How does our congregation do in supporting missions? A: Have the class reflect on the missionaries sponsored and supported. Also, do not forget any special contributions made by the congregation. The class may also want to discuss people supported by individual class members. Celebrate the generosity of the congregation as a sharing of the mind of Christ.
- This should not be a time of boasting, but a time of reflecting on how we put the life of Christ into practice. It should also be a reminder that perhaps we may be more similar to the Philippian church than we would like. We, like the Philippians, may find it easier to send money to missionaries far away than to extend love and compassion to those sitting with us on the same pew.
- Q: How might the size of our congregation affect relationships? A: 1) In a large congregation it is easier to remain anonymous. One can avoid having any relationships at all. 2) More people mean more possibilities for broken or strained relationships.
- Have the class discuss ways to keep those things from happening. If the congregation has a giving nature, it means that it is on the right track. Q: What do we need to do to make sure our willingness to give to missionaries is matched by our willingness to give ourselves to each other? A: Class members will likely come up with a number of answers. Most will likely be general, but some valuable specifics may arise. If so, do not be timid. Force the class into action. The goal of these lessons is to change lives. If an opportunity presents itself, do not let it go unaddressed.
- If a prayer for missionaries was not offered during the devotional period, close the class with a prayer. Remember not only the missionaries, but also the need to think like Christ in our relationships with each other and the world, and also ask God's blessing on any actions adopted by the class as a result of this series of lessons.
Assignment (1 minute)
- Have the class read Philippians 4:14-23 in preparation for the next lesson.
Back to Philippians
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